Promising prospects in agriculture: Duck raising

Although ducks are also good for meat production, they are primarily raised for eggs. Oftentimes, these eggs are made into balut, a cooked 18-day incubated egg regarded by most Filipinos as delicacy.

Most of the breeds raised for balut are Pateros duck or itik. The breed is a good layer but is a non-sitter. Egg production rate is 175 per laying year, according to Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center.

But duck farmers can now produce 50 more eggs than the traditional Pateros duck.

This can be made possible by raising the Itik Pinas, developed collaboratively by the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center and Bureau of Animal Industry in partnership with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

“Itik Pinas is a genetically superior breeder duck which has a higher average productive period of 70% in a year, compared with 55% for the old breed,” said PCAARRD in a press statement. “This translates to an increase in egg production of at least 50 quality eggs per duck per year or an additional income of P300 per duck per year.”

Now, if a farmer raises 30 ducks, it means an annual additional income of P9,000.

What makes the egg of Itik Pinas is that it produces eggs which has an average weight of 65 grams a piece, consistent with the requirement of the balut industry.

“Itik Pinas can adapt to local conditions and can perform well even with simple housing and low-cost feeds,” the statement said.

According to PCAARRD, the strains of Itik Pinas are products of organized breeding and selection that focus on the uniformity of physical characteristics, higher and predictable egg production performance, and consistent egg quality.

Actually, there are three kinds of Itik Pinas and they are classified into two colors –“kayumanggi” (brown) and “itim” (black) – and a strain from Khaki Campbell duck, which was introduced in the country in the 1950s yet.

Itik Pinas Kayumanggi lays egg for the first time at 20 weeks old. The age at peak of egg production is 29 weeks; its peak production is 98%. Egg production per duck per year is 266. From the start until 18 weeks old, this strain consumes 12.5 kilograms of feed. Its daily feed intake at laying period is 140 grams.

Itik Pinas Itim starts to lay eggs at 23 weeks old. Like Itik Pinas Kayumanggi, its age at peak of egg production is 29 weeks but has peak production of 99%. However, its annual egg production per duck is only 256. From the start until 18 weeks old, it consumes 12.8 kilograms of feed while its daily feed intake at laying period is 142 grams.

At 22 weeks, the Itik Pinas Khaki starts laying eggs. At 29 weeks is its age at peak of production. The peak egg production of this strain is 98%. Like Itik Pinas Itim, its annual egg production per duck is 256. It consumes 12.5 kilograms of feed from the start until 18 weeks old. The daily feed intake at laying period is 149 grams.

Itik Pinas, PCAARDD says, is “an output of its duck industry strategic science and technology program, which aims to develop science-based interventions for increased production and egg weight.”

The development of Itik Pinas is a good news since few years earlier, a study – “Future prospects for smallholder poultry producers in the Philippines: ducks and native chickens,” which was commissioned by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – had this finding:

“… In the short to medium term, demand for duck products, including balut, may increase with income and population growth, but in the longer term it will decline as economy develops further. This proposition is based on overseas experiences and demand trends in the Philippines. That is, per capita consumption of duck eggs has either been in decline in traditional duck-producing countries as a result of economic development and changing lifestyles and consumption patterns, while domestic statistics show that demand for duck eggs has been stagnating in the past decade.”

The finding suggested a possible decline in future demand for duck eggs, which was identified in the study to be “the most significant threat facing the Philippine duck sector in the longer term.”

Duck raising has been practiced in the Philippines for so long that no one knows when it exactly started. The early Chinese traders reportedly introduced it. When Spaniards came, it was already a thriving industry in Pateros, Rizal, which is still the center of duck production in the country.

Although it ranks second only to chicken for egg and meat production, duck is also an important sub sector of the Philippine poultry industry. It provides employment and income-generating opportunities for Filipinos, particularly those in the rural and marginal areas.

In addition, duck raising help offset the effects of climate change, particularly in the production of methane, a greenhouse gas. Recent studies show that methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled during the past 200 years.

Riceland has been cited as one of the major contributors of methane in the atmosphere. “An estimated 19 percent of world’s methane production comes from rice paddies,” Dr. Alan Teramura, a botany professor at the University of Maryland, said. “As populations increase in rice-growing areas, more rice – and more methane – are produced.”

Ducks can help contain the release of methane into the atmosphere – aside from reducing labor costs and the use of expensive chemicals.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the integrated rice-duck farming system is one of the best strategies in increasing rice productivity as it reduces labor and inputs characterized by its devoid use of artificial fertilizers and chemicals. Thus, shift from conventional way of planting using inorganic materials to this technology provides additional source of income and food to farmers.

The said technology, the DA says, is environmentally sound as it restores the relationship of people with nature. Rice-duck farming system is a sustainable system as it helps in eliminating the contamination of soil, water and air brought by chemical substances which are harmful to both nature and human.

“The integrated rice-duck technology reduces the use of chemicals,” the agriculture department points out. “Since ducks are grown alongside rice paddies, they eat harmful pests at the same time their dung fertilizes the soil. Their paddling movement cultivates the soil and destroys the weeds. Its benefits to the farmers are immediately felt and tangible.”

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